The world’s first Paralympic Heritage Centre is now open at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement. (Photo featuring Lorraine Arnott, BuDS Torchbearer for the Pyongyang Games Flame Celebration.)
The National Paralympic Heritage Centre is a small museum which tells the story about how the Paralympic Movement began in the 1940s at Stoke Mandeville Hospital by Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann who encouraged wounded veterans to play sport as an aid to rehabilitation from spinal injury. This led to local competitions, the Stoke Mandeville Games and to the Paralympic Games which today attracts international support and a global broadcast audience of more than 4 billion.
The museum displays celebrate the stories of the Paralympians, hospital staff and the local Aylesbury community who played a large part in setting up the early Games. Previously held in storage the tickets, medals, sports kit, photographs and programmes can now be seen by the general public.
Items on display for handling include a goalball, para hockey blade, the latest Ottobock running blade and wheelchairs from the 1950s to the present day.
The heritage centre has been designed to be fully accessible so the displays can be appreciated by all visitors. Audio description and BSL are included on all videos and screens; braille sheets are included alongside the displays and large print booklets can be collected from the introduction panel. The centre is accessible for wheelchairs and visitors with guide dogs and there are designated quiet times for visitors who require less distraction.
Throughout the year there are special events planned: family activities, Meet the Paralympian and BSL tours. Tours and talks are available for Schools and groups. Please visit the NPHT website for more details and how to book onto a tour or an event.
The National Paralympic Heritage Centre is supported by the British Paralympic Association, WheelPower – British Wheelchair Sport, Aylesbury Vale District Council and Buckinghamshire County Council. With grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, AIM Biffa Award ‘History Makers’ Programme, Rothschild Foundation, Aylesbury Vale Community Chest, Heart of Bucks and the Wellcome Trust. The local community, who played an integral part in the establishment of the Paralympic Movement, continue to help by sharing their stories and volunteering as Ambassadors at the National Paralympic Heritage Centre.
Clare Newman, PR Executive at Ottobock running blades, said “The exhibition is wonderful – the interactive features with the touch screens, especially for the racing wheelchairs display, was particularly informative. Ottobock has been a proud technical partner of the Paralympics for more than 30 years so to be a part of this exhibition, with our running blade as part of the display, is a real honour.”
Eva Loeffler, daughter of Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, said “Congratulations on the wonderful display you have produced. It is a superb tribute and tells the story perfectly.”
Vicky Hope-Walker, Project Manager at the National Paralympic Heritage Trust, said “We are delighted to open this accessible
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About the National Paralympic Heritage Trust
The National Paralympic Heritage Trust (NPHT) has been established ‘to enlighten and inspire future generations by celebrating, cherishing and bringing the Paralympic heritage and its stories of human endeavour to life’. The heritage tells the history of a remarkable movement beginning with the arrival of Dr Guttmann as a Jewish refugee from Germany in 1939 and his appointment to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1943 when he introduced sport for the rehabilitation of servicemen with spinal cord injuries. He revolutionised their treatment and it is a journey that has had profound effects on the lives of many disabled people and their families. It has led the way in changing attitudes towards disabled people and influenced the development of new medical, scientific and engineering technologies. It is a tale still unfolding with further significant developments during and since the success of London 2012.
The four founding members of the National Paralympic Heritage Trust are the British Paralympic Association, WheelPower – British Wheelchair Sport, Aylesbury Vale District Council and Buckinghamshire County Council. Contributing partners include the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation, the National Spinal Injuries Centre, Buckinghamshire County Museum Trust and the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies.